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Community Post: Art Talking Women

Art Talking Women is a series of intimate conversations with a variety of hosts where female-identified artists discuss their creative process as well as their relationship with community and technology. Art Talking Women celebrates and showcases practicing Canadian women artists to the world through evolving podcast technology, internet-based social networks, and digital distribution.

This project was initiated by Margaret Dragu, the winner of the 2012 Governor General’s Award, and developed into a three part collaboration between Cinevolution Media Arts Society, Dragu’s DWI (Dragu Worker International) Production and VIVO Media Arts Centre.

Click here to watch episode #6 featuring Robin Brass and episode #9 featuring Victoria Singh which were both filmed here at grunt gallery!

art talking women trailer screenshot

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Community Partnership: LOVE BC

LOVE Line-03[2]

Leave Out Violence (LOVE BC) is an organization working with all youth, with a strong emphasis on supporting youth who experience multiple social and systemic barriers. LOVE brings together youth from different backgrounds and experiences and offers them creative tools to tell their stories, promote non-violence and practice healthy self-expression.

LOVE LINE showcases a collection of LOVE youth’s work and stories through photography, poetry, short films and mixed media. Through this work, LOVE youth are able to share their experiences with each other and form a strong, healthy peer community. The youth team named this exhibit LOVE LINES in recognition of the long-term connections that they built at LOVE.

love lines exhibition image

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NEC Mural Project

Painting of the mural is well underway!!  Lead artists Corey Bulpitt, Sharifah Marsden, and Jerry Whitehead have been working long hours to prepare for the launch as part of the first ever Vancouver Mural Festival on Saturday, August 20.  The mural is looking amazing already.  Check out this beautiful timelapse video of some of the work that’s gone into it so far, as filmed by our volunteer, Rosalina Cerritos and featuring music by Russell Wallace.

NEC Mural Timelapse video screenshot


Come help us paint at the official launch party on Saturday, August 20 between 12:00 noon to 6:00 pm.  RSVP here!


NEC_Mural Design (1)

Check out the finalized design for our Past and Presence mural project for the Tsimilano Building, the NEC’s administrative building located on East 5th Avenue! Our lead artists Corey Bulpitt, Sharifah Marsden and Jerry Whitehead recently held a series of workshops with the Urban Native Youth Association’s Young Bears Lodge and other community members to collaborate on this design. See pix from those workshops here.

It’s been slow going but we’re patiently waiting for our permit and planning a paint party BBQ in July – all are welcome to attend!

For updates and invitations to mural events, email


The Native Education College (NEC) and grunt gallery are partnering with three Vancouver-based First Nations artists: Corey Bulpitt, Sharifah Marsden and Jerry Whitehead to create a large scale mural that celebrates the NEC’s 30th Anniversary at their location in Mount Pleasant.

We’d like to invite the public to participate! Especially youth, families, and anyone interested in learning about contemporary Indigenous art practices, Indigenous-led education, the history of Mount Pleasant, and working together to plan and paint a community mural.

The mural will be painted on the east wall of the Tsimilano Building, an administrative building located next door to the Longhouse on East 5th Avenue at Main Street, a busy urban area in East Vancouver.

Mural planning session #2
Saturday, January 23, 2016
12:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Native Education College Longhouse
285 East 5th Avenue

Light refreshments will be served. Attendance at meeting #1 is not a requirement. In fact, we hope new participants will come to each meeting.

This session will also include a tour of Coast Salish artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun’s art studio.

We will continue to meet on a monthly basis to plan the mural. Painting will take place in April 2016 followed by a big launch party!


Corey Bulpitt: aakeit Aaya or “Gifted Carver” Haida of the Naikun Raven clan was born in Prince Rupert BC in 1978. He is a great-great grandson of the famed Charles Edenshaw and Louis Collison. He is an avid painter, jeweler, wood and argillite carver who enjoys exploring different mediums such as spray paint, which he has used to create large-scale paintings involving urban youth in Vancouver. Through his study Corey creates functional pieces that can be used in the traditional context of song and dance.

Sharifah Marsden: Sharifah is an Anishnaabe artist from Mississauga’s of Scugog Island First Nation. Sharifah draws from her Anishnaabe roots and her knowledge of Woodlands art to create works that include everything from acrylic paintings, murals to beadwork and engraving. She graduated from the Native Education College, Northwest Coast Jeweller Arts program under established Haida/Kwakwaka’wakw artist, Dan Wallace. She has been focusing on her own career as an artist, creating jewellery and designing murals for a number of Vancouver’s non-profit organizations.

Jerry Whitehead: Jerry is of Cree heritage from the James Smith First Nation in Saskatchewan. Art has been his lifelong passion. Today Jerry resides in Vancouver and he continues to paint within his community and abroad. He received a Bachelor of Arts Degree – Indian Art (S.I.F.C) from the University of Regina in 1983. He then went on to complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1987. You may view Jerry’s artistic projects at and see the various projects he has been involved with.


Session #1 – December 9, 2015

Approximately 15 people gathered to meet the artists, Corey, Sharifah, and Jerry.  Russell Wallace from the NEC spoke, as did Tarah Hogue, Aboriginal Curatorial Resident from grunt gallery.  Each of the artists gave a presentation which included photos and stories of past murals they’ve worked on.  Then we all walked outside together to look at the blank wall we would soon be painting.  It’s really large!  At the end, everyone took a blank piece of paper and sketched out their ideas for the mural design.

#2  – January 23, 2016

New and returning participants convened to continue planning the NEC’s 30th anniversary mural.  We started the session with a visit to Coast Salish artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun’s studio.  Wow!!!  Lawrence impressed upon us the importance of meaning and symbolism in artwork.  It really made us think about what we wanted to say with our mural.  Afterwards, we went back to the NEC where Corey Bulpitt gave us a lesson in the use of the “ovoid” shape in Coast Salish art.  Then we broke out the colouring pencils and tried to create our own ovoid inspired designs.  We also got a sneak preview into what might be the first draft of our actual mural design, but it’s still in process.

Join the NEC Mural Project’s Facebook group to get involved and receive updates on this evolving project.


For more information contact Tarah Hogue, Aboriginal Curatorial Resident at grunt gallery:



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Cutting Copper

Indigenous Resurgent Practice

Two days of performances and discussions

Friday and Saturday, March 4 and 5, 2016

Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson describe resurgence as “the rebuilding of Indigenous nations according to our own political, intellectual and cultural traditions.”

Cutting Copper: Indigenous Resurgent Practice, a collaborative project between grunt gallery and the Belkin Art Gallery, aims to bring together a cross-disciplinary group of artists, curators, writers, educators, scholars, students and activists to explore the embodied theory of Indigenous resurgence and cultural representation – from the perspectives of their own disciplines and one another’s.

This event will focus specifically on the role that contemporary Indigenous artistic practice can and does play in redefining cultural tradition, representation, and the relations between Settler and Indigenous peoples at sites of creativity, community, and dissent.

A series of performances at the Belkin Art Gallery will respond to the exhibition “Lalakenis/All Directions: A Journey of Truth and Unity” by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Beau Dick, and will be followed by thematic discussions held at the Liu Institute for Global Issues and the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.

Cutting Copper: Indigenous Resurgent Practice is presented with support from the British Columbia Arts Council.



Recognition, Refusal and Resurgence

2 pm: Performance | Dana Claxton
Location: Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery (UBC)
1825 Main Mall, Vanouver, BC V6T 1Z2

Discussion Panel | Linc Kesler, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Alfred Taiaiake; Moderator: Shelly Rosenblum
Location: Liu Institute for Global Issues, UBC, 6476 NW Marine Drive

This panel will address some of the theoretical interventions at play when considering the ways in which Indigenous peoples have sought to overcome the contemporary life of settler-colonization and achieve self-determination through cultural production and critique.


Creations, Insertions and Rebuffs: Cultural Institutions and Practice

9:30 am: Performance | Maria Hupfield and Charlene Vickers
Location: Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery

Discussion Panel | Jarrett Martineau, Wanda Nanibush, Tannis Nielsen; Moderator: Lorna Brown
Location: Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, University Centre, UBC, 6331 Crescent Road

This panel will address the role of performative, educational, curatorial or programming models to investigate how they might challenge or alter institutions’ interactions with Indigenous peoples.

Sovereignty Across Disciplines

2 pm: Performance | Tanya Lukin Linklater
Location: Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery

Discussion Panel | Julie Nagam, Michelle Raheja, Dylan Robinson; Moderator: Tarah Hogue
Location: Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, University Centre, UBC, 6331 Crescent Road

This panel will explore intersecting fields of literature, film, media, cultural studies, and dance as modalities of resurgent cultural expression.


For further information please contact Tarah Hogue at 778-235-6928 or

> link to performance videos

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Donations to the grunt bring focus to artists and art projects that are underrepresented in conventional galleries.

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Remediating Mama Pina’s Cookbook

Remediating Mama Pina’s Cookbook Gabriela Aceves Sepúlveda November 21 – 28, 2015


Artist: Gabriela Aceves Sepúlveda

Exhibition Dates: November 21 – November 28, 2015

Remediating Mama Pina’s Cookbook is a three channel video piece that approaches the artist’s great grandmother’s cookbook, as an archival technology that speaks to the generational transmission of gender roles, social status, and cultural memory. Through her attempts to recreate the various handwriting styles, instructions, and recipes from the cookbook, the artist reactivates the archive and raises questions about the nature of what can constitute an archive, the relationship of archival content and form, and the divisions between performed and recorded knowledge.

Bio: Dr. Gabriela Aceves Sepúlveda is a cultural historian and interdisciplinary media artist working at the intersections of video and performance with a research focus on feminist media and Latin American visual culture.

Related: Gabriela Aceves Sepúlveda will be speaking on the panel Artists in the Archive, Thursday November 26, 7pm at the Western Front.

Her work is also featured in Ethnographic Terminalia’s e-zine Terminus: Archives, Ephemera, and Electronic Art launching Wednesday November 26, 6pm at grunt gallery.

Both events are a part of Vancouver Independent Archives Week 2015.

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Disgruntled: Other Art – Conversation between Diana Zapata and Jessica Mach

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Online Messaging Conversation occurred on September 2015 –

grunt gallery has had the pleasure of meeting and working with a great number of fantastic volunteers who have contributed their time to various projects at our space – and who have subsequently become important members of grunt gallery’s community.

We’re happy to share a conversation between two of grunt gallery’s archive volunteers, Diana Zapata and Jessica Mach, about DISGRUNTLED: Other Art, grunt’s first eBook that commemorates the 30th anniversary.

Diana calls Bogotá, Medellín, Mexico City, Vancouver and Toronto home. She has a BA in Art History from The University of British Columbia and was an Archival Intern at grunt. She currently lives in Toronto, where she makes lattes for the city’s coffee fiends. She is also the Gallery Administrator and Outreach Coordinator at Sur Gallery.

Jessica was an ATA archival and curatorial intern. She received her MA from the Dept. of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University, and now resides in Toronto.

Online Messaging Conversation occurred on September 2015 –

Jessica: So maybe we can begin by discussing why we decided on this particular combination of texts.

Diana: Ok well from my end, something about the deeply personal nature of the texts spoke to me. It wasn’t until after we each went over our shortlist that we found the overlapping themes. And these topics have been on my mind recently. The topics of family and diaspora and identity, that is. Something about the amount of time I’ve spent living on my own away from family has led me to wanting to reflect on that a lot.

J: Yeah these texts were incredibly personal but each one spoke to broader structural dynamics as well. And as was the case with you, there were definitely parts that personally resonated with me — like when Larissa Lai rehearses the line “We didn’t come here so you could be like this (i.e. queer),” she is accurate in her contention that it is one that “so many of us have heard” before (“us” being, of course, the progeny of first-generation immigrants). I’ve heard it, maybe you’ve heard it, and it wasn’t necessarily always being directed at us.

I think what most interested me about this particular combination of texts is also encapsulated by that line. Lai, Susan Stewart, and Peter Morin are all trying to negotiate their conflicting and often irreconcilable fidelities to various traditions, familial structures, sexual practices, etc.

D: Yes, there is a tension there that they are trying to work through between their familial duties, staying true to themselves and working within a world that excludes them. And the artists that Lai writes about, as well as Lai herself, Stewart and Morin seem to be, in one way or another, outsiders. Or trying to live outside what bell hooks called the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

J: Oh the WSCP definitely sucks in a big ass way: even once you’ve given a name to it and recognized the incredible extent to which it structures even the most banal parts of your life, that doesn’t necessarily fortify you against its reach. It was sad, though definitely not surprising, to read for instance in Susan’s essay that Suzo Hickey, an artist whose work explicitly takes as its subject of critique patriarchal standards of motherhood, nevertheless feels like a failure for not being able to meet those standards: “she doesn’t feel like she is doing anything right.”

D: It’s designed to make everybody feel like they are not good enough for it — of course — everybody except those who were actually born fitting its narrow parameters of what it is to be normal or right. And it kills me how families, the people who are supposed to love you and support you, can fail so spectacularly at this because they are more concerned with upholding these damaging values than they are with raising strong, kind individuals who can think for themselves. And it’s not like we are obsessed with the WSCP, but it’s everywhere! And people will go out of their way to deny deny deny rather than just stop and think of how they may be complicit.

And like in Hickey’s case, the lack of support for certain lifestyles is so damaging to all of us. Just because we didn’t all choose to be engineers or IT specialists doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to be there for our families and provide them with the best life we can.

J: The proposition that alternative familial structures can facilitate well-being for their members just as well as — or possibly even better than — say, the nuclear family, can seem like such a “well, duh” thing. But it also often isn’t. These three essays are so instructive for thinking through the lived complexities (and often pain) of navigating alternative avenues in a WSCP, because they all direct attention to the negative affects that can circulate around such an enterprise, and the extent to which these affects can burden or even outright prevent its realization.

Again, I found Lai’s rehearsal of the line “We didn’t come here so you could be like this” fascinating, not least because I’ve also been the object of its address. It is an accusation of betrayal, and the accusation isn’t actually completely inappropriate or inaccurate.

D: As much as parents want their children to live their best lives, I can see how it can be difficult for them to understand their child’s choices, especially if they spent so much of their adult lives sacrificing parts of themselves to raise them. But when you’re a child, it’s painful to stick out because of who your parents are (if you only have one parent, if you have two moms or if you are being raised by a struggling artist) and all you might want to do is be normal. So it feels like a lose-lose situation. Families are still families, no matter how unconventional and they are all composed of separate humans experiencing life in a parallel, not identical way. And these humans might all be broken in their own ways throughout their lives.

“We didn’t come here so you could be like this,” in the eyes of the person speaking it, might be meant to be interpreted as “we didn’t want you to suffer how we’ve suffered” but it’s hard to take it like that when you know you can’t be any other way and still be happy. So that delicate balance fascinates me, which is why I am interested in finding out about how other people experience it and live through it.

J: Yeah, and I think the Peter Morin essay provides an illuminating (and incredibly lovely) counterpoint to the Lai and Stewart essays, which meditate on the frustrations, pain, and awkwardness of disentangling oneself from various traditions — traditions structured, in both cases, by localized iterations of patriarchy. Here is an individual whose relation to Family is defined by longing — for real people who are either rarely proximate or no longer around, and for a facility with a heritage that may not have been so well-documented and thus easily recovered.

D: The part that I related to the most in that essay was the part where he talks about how his family took turns housing his grandmother. I remember my mom telling me that this or that uncle or aunt were taking them to their house for a certain period of time before it was somebody else’s turn. They would pool money to pay for medicine and other expenses, and since it would have been too expensive to hire a nurse to take care of them this was the solution. They spent their time living with each of their children and with their grandchildren. I missed out on a lot of that because my family lived in a different country, so we would only visit during the summers.

It was also refreshing to be reminded that not all aspects of family can be damaging, and that there are traditions which are useful and important to pass on. I also enjoyed the parts that talk specifically about the photo and its frame. When you belong to a community or family that has spent so long moving around, certain objects will hold so much power over your memory. I particularly loved this: “So, I too am responsible for stories” because I don’t think he sees it as a burden, but an honour. To have a history and to pass it on to the next generation.

J: There are definitely traditions that are useful and important to pass on! This is perhaps particularly the case for Morin, who is Tahltan — to preserve and sustain specific traditions is to refuse and to fortify against an historically institutionalized project of colonial erasure.

D: Yassss.

It seems like we have all taken up the job of attempting to dismantle the damage done by hundreds of years of destruction, in our own ways. I’m thankful to grunt for informing so much of my thinking in this respect. Working with the archives was an amazing educational experience, especially when it came to contemporary First Nations art and Performance art. So it wasn’t just the people I met along the way.

J: Yes! Although I met you, Olga, Kendra, Venge, and Dan at grunt, and you’re all still my besties.

D: 5ever.

Download the 30th Anniversary eBook here.


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AGM 2015


Please join us for a fun, fast, pizza and beer-filled AGM.  Those that join us will be treated to a talk by Glenn Alteen on his latest whirlwind trip to the Istanbul biennale.

We will be meeting for the following purposes:

  1. To receive the March 31, 2015 Audited Financial Statements.
  2. To receive the annual reports.
  3. To elect the society’s officers.

All members of the Visible Art Society are invited to attend.

If you are not already a member, please visit our website ( by September 29, 2015 to sign up for a free membership. A pop-up screen will appear on the home page with a check box to opt-in.

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Job Posting: Communications Director

| grunt gallery | #116-350 E. 2nd Ave | Vancouver, BC | V5T 4R8 | |

Job Description

Position Title: Communications Director
Location: grunt gallery
Reporting to: Program Director

Hours: 32 hours per week; some evening and weekend work; flexible schedule

Start date: Tuesday, October 20, 2015

General Description of the Position:

The Communications Director is responsible for all communications with the grunt community, the marketing of grunt programs and the coordination of fundraising. The Communications Director reports directly to the Program Director and is responsible for creating and managing marketing initiatives such as newsletters, advertisements, social media, web 2.0 and press releases, as well as working with grunt staff to coordinate, research, develop and implement various fundraising initiatives. The CD oversees the production of brochures catalogues and other publications for the society, including the annual report. The CD is also responsible for coordinating exhibition openings with other staff and board, website management and updates, and basic customer service while at the gallery.

Required Competencies:

Marketing Collaboration Commitment Communication Flexibility Creativity
Computer Skills Resourcefulness Reliability
Fundraising Tolerance
Written Communication

General Responsibilities:

• Promoting programming through press releases, mass emails, website, social media, web 2.0 and newsletters;
• Participation in and support of various committees and project groups as required;
• Working with the Program Director to get a good understanding of program requirements for marketing and communications;
• Coordinating, researching, developing and implementing various fundraising and donor cultivation initiatives;
• Coordinating and hosting exhibition openings;
• Website management and updates;
• Volunteer coordination and supervision;
• Assisting with customer service;
• Other duties as required.

Required Skills and Education:

• Excellent understanding of artist-run centres;
• Post-secondary education in an arts related program is an asset;
• Previous experience (work or volunteer) with arts organizations;
• Advanced writing skills and an ability to develop marketing around programming and fundraising;
• Fundraising and donor cultivation experience is highly recommended;
• Working knowledge of Web 2.0/ Social Media, e.g. Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram;
• Working knowledge of MS Office, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, MailChimp, WordPress and GiftWorks, an asset;
• Strong time management skills;
• Strong technical skills;
• Resourceful, hands-on and pro-active.

Other Job Requirements:

• Must be highly organized, detail oriented, committed to quality and able to work independently, with minimal supervision;
• Outgoing, social and comfortable with public speaking;
• Ability to work flexible hours.

Business Ethics and the Workplace:

• The Communications Director must promote and set the example for ensuring a friendly, courteous, respectful and professional workplace;
• The Communications Director must maintain the confidentiality of all personal, private and professional information obtained within the course of their employment, in accordance with the grunt Privacy Policy;
• The Communications Director must act in accordance with the grunt Workplace Relationship Policy, which prohibits the acceptance of gifts, loans or anything of value from any individuals with whom contact is had during the course of employment.

About grunt

Formed in 1984, grunt Gallery has built a reputation on innovative and cutting edge programs, exhibitions, performances, artist talks, publications and special projects that showcase current and past work by contemporary Canadian and international artists. We focus on work that would otherwise not be seen in Vancouver and are proud of our ability to act as an intersection between various cultural groups based on aesthetics, medium or identity. We consider our programming as a work in progress that is always changing and is always interesting.

grunt gallery offers a competitive salary and benefits package, along with a flexible work schedule, opportunities for education and development, and a very comfortable, creative, harmonious and positive work environment.

PDF Download: grunt Communications Director ad Sept15-15

To apply: Please send your resume and cover letter by email to Meagan Kus at

Application deadline: Monday, September 28th at 5:00pm

grunt is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes all applicants.

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Disgruntled: Other Art – Conversation between Venge Dixon and Olga Alexandru

conversation header

grunt gallery has had the pleasure of meeting and working with a great number of fantastic volunteers who have contributed their time to various projects at our space – and who have subsequently become important members of grunt gallery’s community.

We’re happy to share a conversation between two of grunt gallery’s archive volunteers, Olga Alexandru and Venge Dixon, about DISGRUNTLED: Other Art, grunt’s first eBook that commemorates the 30th anniversary.

Venge has worked with grunt gallery for many years – volunteering, editing and establishing the very tiny base of what was to become grunt’s extensive, wonderfully well-staffed project, Activating the Archives (ATA). Venge Dixon is a visual artist, musician and occasional composer. These days she is working on the first book of a long planned comic book series.

Olga first started as an archival intern for the ATA project and went on to become the database manager. She co-created educational study guides for high school students using material from the archives. She has also sat on the curatorial committee. She is a poet & zine-maker who now resides in Bristol, UK.

Online Messaging Conversation occurred on July 15, 2015 –
Venge:  Would you like to begin with Polly Bak, or would you like to begin with a less dense text (and by that I mean wordy, not excessive)?

Olga:  We can start with Polly Bak. It’s the first essay I read and I was so glad that I did because it definitely helped frame the conversation in my head.

Venge:  Sounds good. How did it help you frame the conversation? I seem to be still without one—[a] frame, that is.

Olga:  Well, for me everything related to grunt has to do with identity: the identity of who I was as a woman starting my art career, the cultural identity of the artists shown at grunt, and the implications of how we create identity or how it’s created for us. And reading Polly’s essay seemed to confirm a lot of those themes.

Venge:  I admit to finding this piece both hectoring and yet full of content with which I do or have identified within myself. She asks questions and provides answers.

Venge:  One of my favourite things about grunt is that it provides many, many questions in its exhibitions but does not define an absolute answer, if any answer at all.

Olga:  Yes! I agree completely. It presents ideas and makes you think of the implications of certain things but it stops short of telling you what you should think or do as a result. And that, I think, is the making of a great institution. I think it’s a place where things never feel clichéd or like some lesson is being taught.

Venge:  Yes. I do think that this is intentional. grunt is open to ideas – many, many ideas. Shows happen because a diverse group of people decide that they suit the space, often because the voice of that particular artist on that particular subject has not been heard. The decision isn’t necessarily that a voice must [be heard], only that it has not been and is therefore worth discussing.

Olga:  Exactly. I think they probably pick artists who kind of align with that way of thinking. Showing rather than telling. I feel like Polly does that in her essay. She talks so forthrightly about having White privilege. I like how she makes fun of herself and other “well-meaning” White people, especially by choosing the tongue-in-cheek title “A Good-Hearted White Girl’s Search for Identity.” The section she talks about guilt leading people to hate and fear the thing that makes us feel guilty was so on point. I had to stop for a long time and think about that. It was so simple but it’s so true.

Venge:  I had difficulty with some of that “tongue-in-cheekness” – perhaps it is there to lessen the blow, [but] to me it seemed more defensive than matter-of-fact. That does not lessen its impact. The damage done by white shame is real and pervasive. Many of us, including my younger self, sometimes this older one, would rather swallow fire ants than acknowledge that this guilt has/does haunt us and therefore the society in which we live.

Venge:  I used to say “but I am only first-and-a-half generation Canadian” or “I didn’t grow up here” or some other “Not My Fault” silliness. This was fueled by fear and a sense that the rage native people might feel towards Whites was somehow mine to shoulder.

Venge:  When she speaks about listening being the way to understanding, about her responsibility towards other Whites – in terms of educating them – I am both drawn to the ideas and yet feel, at the same time, that ‘something’ is missing and too much decided.

Olga:  Going back to the first thing you said, I only read some parts of the essay as tongue-in-cheek, I think because her tone was difficult to categorize. But what you say makes a lot of sense. At times it does seem quite defensive. But I think that’s probably the point. Because she includes herself as one of the problematic people. Her line “I am one with the murderers and the slaughtered” was very striking. I agree with you though: it’s only part of the solution. I think the narrative around issues of race now is to let POC speak for themselves and not to interrupt with our opinions, which I think it one of the ways forward. I think this segueways nicely into Kamala Todd’s essay about Jeff Thomas’s “A Study of Indian-ness.” His exhibition is a way of reclaiming the representation of Aboriginal people by self-made images. It’s a way to create a more realistic narrative than the fantasy of the empty land and dying Indian that the dominant culture has created.

Venge:  Agreed! Not attempting to speak for others does seem to be one of the ways forward. Kamala Todd’s essay speaks of a visible/visibility, presenting a truth about colonial separation within its dominant culture (of which I am a privileged member), between its version of history and the reality that stands before it, clear and no longer silent.

Venge:  I think that Jeff Thomas’s work provides us with a clear place from which to watch, listen and not insert our White/ colonial/thieving sense of things into the frame.

Olga:  Yeah. I remember while working on ATA I came across the photo of his exhibition that showed all the cheesy romance novels with the really chiseled Native Warrior characters on the cover and I thought “Man! I wish I had seen that exhibition”. Here’s the photo.

Olga:  It was just such a jarring thing because you can see it from an outsider’s point of view. It looks super cheesy and stereotypical. And then you realize, well so are things like the Edward Curtis photos Kamala references, yet somehow one has become way more acceptable as reality.

Venge:  Wow, these are great; thanks for the link, Olga! And yes, that moment it takes to realize that you have seen the “joke” in high school history books, public art galleries, train stations, court houses presented with great serious… and, oh, crap! Did I understand those ‘jokes’? Probably not. Do I understand Thomas’s? Probably not.

That’s “seriousness.”

Olga:  Yeah, like it’s kind of crazy that kids are still being taught some bullshit colonial reworking of history. There’s an amazing part of Polly Bak’s essay that talks about 1492 and how the land was in fact not empty: “By 1492 this land had been transformed by many, many generations of settlers and builders, mounds, temples, towns, cities, dams, farming, hunting, logging, fishing; the land was lived on, fought over, buried in. There were parents and children. Places had names. Full, the land was full.” When you see that it’s so hard to listen to any justification for why history is still taught through colonial lenses.

Venge:  It has become increasingly deliberate, the Colonial ‘lie as history’. Does anyone still believe it? Is there a reason to? Yes. We are living on land that does not belong to us, creating an overlay of impossible steel and glass structures, hoping that by our excess our thievery will go unnoticed.

Olga:  Yeah, I’m not really sure how the lies are still believed to be true. I think it’s really similar to what’s happening in the US with the treatment of Black people, especially young, Black men. The country has been in denial for a long time as to the treatment towards Black people. And now only through self-made movements like #BlackLivesMatter is the truth being exposed. And it is making everyone super uncomfortable. Because they’d rather not know. Because then they have to do something about it or be complacent. And if they’re complacent and still allowing systemic injustices to occur then they don’t know what that says about them as human beings.

Venge:  I think that #BlackLivesMatter and the increased public awareness of Black lives not seeming to matter is the truth being re-exposed. The dominant culture opens one eye, closes the other, and then, over a decade or so/or less, closes the other. This is not the first time African Americans have had to yell very loudly to make us White people listen, this is not the first time native peoples of the world have had their lives paid lip service to. Will we go beyond half sight/ half hearing? Will we be hearing and seeing the very same outrages committed in the names of Whites everywhere and acting surprised all over again? I do not have much faith in us… I listen, see, and I haven’t actually done a damn thing.

Venge:  Or is that, perhaps, what I need to do?

Olga:  Yeah, I’m definitely not trying to say I have answers, because I sure as hell don’t. I think you’re right. It comes and goes out of season for the dominant culture to care about POC. It’s fucked up that their fights get picked up and dropped according to the flavour du jour. I mean not to be cheesy but I think this is the role of art. To bring these issues to the forefront, to make people uncomfortable in an environment they didn’t expect it. Maybe people are tired of politics. Maybe the fight needs to move into a different arena.

Venge:  I think you’re right, not cheesy: art has the ability to challenge, to bring up the well-hidden, obvious failings of the society in which it persists. Persists despite funding losses, proscription, mockery, derision. Art is powerful, and its power belongs equally to all who participate. I don’t mean that all galleries are open to all artists… I mean that art and artists have a voice outside of absolutes, outside of societal ‘truths’. It is sometimes possible to hear another better when you are silent in the presence of their creation.

Venge:  This seems like a very good time to talk about Paul Wong’s poem from 1999. He is speaking of a time of great creative upheaval and willingness on the parts of artists and audiences alike to leap into the unknown.

Olga:  Yeah, I love the poem; that’s why I wanted to talk about it. I think I first saw it in one of the other publications grunt did and I remembering chuckling to myself. I didn’t know anything about performance art before I started working at grunt, so it was amazing to learn about the performance scene in the ‘90s. I think the poem is kind of what people say about performance art, either against it or as a way to defend it.

Venge:  Yes. It a celebration of the form, the adventure, the confusion and, oh yeah, heavy drinking and the cigarette break!

Venge:  There was also this sense that anyone might be a part of the experience. That maybe our purpose one the planet was to make art – with our bodies, our stamina, our loud and quiet voices and our outrageous chutzpah!

Olga:  Yeah, looking back at the photos and seeing the footage of the performances and even hearing people’s stories made me wish I had been there. You know, like people say they wish they’d been in New York in the ‘80s or whatever. But I think grunt managed to channel that feeling into the gallery as a whole. From the first time I went there, to a solstice party, everyone was so friendly and welcoming. We kind of created this family out of that place. I know it’s been around for 30 years, so I’ve seen the different iterations of the family, but man! it feels great to have been a part of it. To still be a part of it even though I live far away now. I feel like grunt will always be a place I can go home to, you know?

Venge:  What is on the walls or installed in the room, the people who come for a while and stay forever: it all feels like a part of a wonderous spiral, ever-changing and yet always moving back towards itself and away again. It has been a privilege for me to be a small part of that and a thrill to have met so many amazing people. I’m with you: near or far, I will be there.

Olga:  Wow. That’s so beautiful Venge. That place opened up so many things in me. Not to get all existential, but it really changed the way I thought about myself. I think working there finally gave me the confidence I needed to pursue the things I loved. The people I met there definitely changed my perception of what normal is. I think it allowed me to be myself and to grow into myself as well.

Venge:  I think there is more to be said about everything we have spoken about – way more. But I do have to shave my head sometime this afternoon and am wondering: are there things we left unsaid which we should have mentioned? Are there points you really wanted to make that you have left unstated? Where are you in this process now?

Olga:  I think it’s mostly been said, to be honest. I thought we could maybe share a couple of our favourite moments from our time there to end it?

Venge:  Sounds good. I’ll leave out the crying. You start.

Olga:  Haha! Oh, there were definitely tears of frustration! There’s no denying that. But somehow it was all worth it. So, one of my favourite things was the first solstice party I went to. There was a photo of me standing next to Lawrence Paul and I totally freaked out when he got tagged in it because I had learned about him in school and there I was just casually standing next to him, not knowing. Everyone thought it was hilarious that I didn’t know it was him and that I was freaking out about it. It was a crazy experience. And probably every time after I talked to him I was like, “OMG. I’m talking to Lawrence Paul. Why am I saying all these stupid things?”

Olga:  My other favourite thing was probably standing in the corner at the openings talking to you, Jessica, or Diana. It became such a running joke between me and Jessica that “the corner” was our thing.

Venge:  One of my early memories of grunt was standing in the gallery at Fiona Mowatt’s opening of her Giant Condoms exhibition: all these exquisitely drawn representations of the ordinary made extraordinary by context. That was a long time ago and, at the time, was taken by many as feminist and political statement.

Venge:  When I went to Glenn Alteen in the early thousands, after many visits to the gallery and some actual participation, very much in need – as a crazy woman on disability – of a volunteer position, he was completely non-judgemental. He made it so easy and so ordinary. I will always love him for that.

Olga:  I agree. Glenn is the most unpretentious art dude ever!

Venge:  grunt has been a home for me, a hiding place, a meeting ground, an argument, a celebration of life and continues ever to be a place of profound learning. I feel very lucky to have worked there, to share connections with the people there and to have met you, Jessica, Diana, Kendra, Steven and so many great people, including Lawrence Yuxweluptun!

Olga:  Hear hear! Also I loved talking to Demian about robots. Let’s not forget that.

Venge:  Oh those robots! They are here, Demian, you were so right: they are taking over!

Olga:  Haha! Well, Venge, it has been lovely taking this stroll down memory lane with you. And getting fired up about social justice. I feel like the conversation doesn’t really end here, does it? We’ll always be talking.

Venge:  That’s very true and also cool: we’ll be talking ‘til we can’t.


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